The federal government has rejected Ohio’s attempt to end the individual mandate for health care. The mandate is a staple of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Health care advocates say lawmakers should take this as a sign to work with Obamacare instead of against it.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the state did not prove in their waiver request that enough Ohioans would still have access to affordable care if it were to end the individual mandate.
Steve Wagner, with the Universal Health Care Action Network, says the mandate helps bring down premiums.
“Look, we require everybody to have insurance if you want to own a car,” Wagner says. “There are reasons why you would want to spread the risk across the larger population.”
Obamacare opponents argue that the law is forcing premiums to go up. The Ohio Department of Insurance is looking into any potential next steps.
ODI was required to seek the waiver through a provision from Republican lawmakers. The department paid an actuarial firm nearly $400,000 to help with the waiver.
The conservative think tank Buckeye Institute released a statement saying they were disappointed in the decision.
"The Ohio application does not impact health coverage according to actuarial evidence,” the group said. “While HHS told states it would work with them to use innovation waivers to ease the burden of the Affordable Care Act, in practice HHS has been inflexible. Its refusal to rescind Obama-era guidance regarding [the waiver] reinforces that message of inflexibility."
In 2018, 230,000 Ohioans signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Ohio ranks 13th among states for the number of new consumers and re-enrollments.